India Africa : The Way Ahead

With India looking for resources to fuel growth, and backing for its ambition to become a global power, Africa seems a natural partner as both are looking at mutually beneficial arrangements. As their economies grow, India and Africa share similar views on reform of global governance institutions, including the United Nations Security Council, where both are looking for support from the other for representation.

Further both countries are grappling with similar challenges like terrorism and exploring ways to deal with poverty, disease, illiteracy and hunger.Besides these commonalities there is tremendous potential for India in engineering, textiles, pharmaceuticals, automobiles, processed food and vegetable products.A large number of African countries including Tanzania, Sudan, Mozambique, Kenya and Uganda have huge oil and gas reserves and India wants to invest in the sector to fuel its economic growth.

So India should engage with African nations at the bilateral and multilateral levels.For instance:While we can push for the LDC (least developed country) agenda at the World Trade Organization (WTO), we can help individual African countries in capacity-building to help them export more.

India should endeavour to regain the ground it has lost in Africa to China and other Asian nations, positioning itself as a partner of choice in areas such as healthcare, education and investment and trade. The sharing of experience on political institutions and human resources development is an important aspect of India’s non-intrusive support to the development of democratic institutions in many African countries.

The “commerce of ideas” that Mahatma Gandhi envisaged the future relationship between India and Africa to revolve around should be made a central element of Indian policy. The 2.2 billion people of India and Africa share many problems and could learn from each other’s experiences in resolving these. Promoting partnerships between the media and academic communities might be one way to do this. Innovative work in the field of handicrafts has just started and the rich field of cultural interaction has remained practically unexplored. As much if not more than business deals and lines of credit, it is this commerce of ideas which will provide true depth to the emerging partnership between Africa and India.